There is nothing noble about it. A biography about the life of the 7th Marquess of Bath and current holder of the title gives an in-depth psychological analysis of one of aristocracy’s most prominent nut-cases. While many visitors flock to Longleat’s Safari Park, few of them are aware of the constant private warfare waged on the estate though some of it has swapped over into the newspapers recently.
Macmillan published Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother by William Shawcross. The book suffers from the usual bug all autobiographies and official biographies suffer from: It shows the life of the subject as the writer of those who authorized it wants it to be remembered, not as it was. Official biographies are nothing more than a propaganda tool to bend history.
Biographies may turn out to be just about anything; they come as pack of lies, as means to drop names, as a way to shift blame to others, or as a collection of pointless anecdotes. Every once in a while, a biography is published that stands out presenting a riveting life's story. The biography written about Bert Trautmann is one of the latter.
Arthur Miller died in 2005 at the age of 89, and the reactions were not universally of grief. Lights were dimmed on Broadway and one paper cleared its front page, but several dissenters made themselves heard over the empty rituals of public praise. The most famous of America’s playwrights had always called forth divided reactions from critics and public, so reactions after his death were in keeping with that.
Peter Biskind’s book Star, a biography of Warren Beatty, was published by Simon & Schuster. The author tries and abysmally fails to get Warren Beatty out of bed, but the book makes good reading for scandal mongers. If you ever wondered how to start your Hollywood career: It starts in the bed of a producer or director. It helps if you aren't choosy about the sex of your mentors; they will get you roles even when lacking in looks and acting talent.
If you ever wondered why celebrities tend to publish their invented biographies while alive, here’s one to read at all cost. The author manages to stay out of most cat fights, but the truth is hurting enough without the need to add slander. This is not how historian Hugh Trevor-Roper imagined to be remembered.
It is always difficult to come second and later. When writing a biography, it makes your job as a writer that much harder and your research must be more thorough than that previously done. Still, the outcome might be a book that contains nothing new over what has already been written. It ends up being a rehash of well known and acclaimed books with no merit of its own.
Being offensive is an easy thing to do and something most people are quite good at; doing it intelligently, though, is a literary achievement. Auberon Waugh was a master of this craft and excelled at finding a hornet’s nest where none existed before. Enter the world of political incorrectness with me.
Adam Boulton, Sky’s former political editor, tried to write a book on the Blair years at 10 Downing Street: Tony’s Ten Years: Memoirs of the Blair Administration published by Simon & Schuster. If you expect objectivity and distance from a political editor, then you will be sorely disappointed. But it is much worse than just a failure to keep the distance.
Rupert Thomson has written a novel under the title of a memoir. He is out to take book critics for a ride. As far as I was able to find reviews, he was extremely successful even though plot, style, and hyperbole used are a dead give-away. But the book offers much more than schadenfreude at the expense of hapless professional book reviewers.